MIDTOWN EAST — The owner of a tony Italian eatery fired his manager for complaining about male employees making inappropriate comments about a female bartender's body and servers taunting a gay staffer, a new lawsuit says.
Carlos Montoya, former manager of Valbella at 11 E. 53rd St., said he was fired on the spot when he asked owner David Ghatanfard to put an end to the ongoing harassment, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
In April of this year, Montoya said two employees complained to him about a "hostile working environment," including a bartender who said her male coworkers made offensive comments about her body, specifically her butt, the suit says.
Another employee told Montoya that one of the restaurant's servers had been bullying him because he is gay by calling him by the female version of his name, the suit alleges. When another gay employee was hired, the same server said, "Now there is someone here for your kind for you to hook up with," the suit claims.
Montoya said he spoke with the offending employees but that the harassment continued. At a meeting with Ghatanfard in mid-May, he told the owner about the issues and asked that he take further action like suspending or firing the employees.
Ghatanfard "ignored" their concerns and didn't take any action, the suit says.
When Montoya brought it up again with Ghatanfard on May 25, saying he that he hadn't dealt with the problem, Ghatanfard fired him on the spot, saying, "I don't need you anymore," according to the lawsuit.
Montoya believes he was fired as a direct result of this confrontation, as he had increased the restaurant's sales by roughly $460,000 from 2015 to 2016 and had been "enjoying a successful career at Valbella," he says in the lawsuit.
The suit is seeking past and future salary, the loss of a 10 percent commission worth roughly $46,000, attorneys' fees and damages for pain, suffering, humiliation and other emotional distress.
Valbella, which has other locations in the Meatpacking District and in Connecticut, has served its Italian cuisine to high-profile people such as Eli Manning and a number of New York Knicks.
A man who identified himself as the restaurant's manager said the owner wasn't in, adding the business had no comment.